KSL INVESTIGATES

KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from Utah GOP candidates fighting to replace Romney

Jun 10, 2024, 11:26 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2024, 12:38 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Four Utah Republicans competing to replace retiring Sen. Mitt Romney in the U.S. Senate squared off on the debate stage Thursday night.

And while each candidate is entitled to his own beliefs and opinions, the KSL Investigators checked into their claims of fact. Here’s what our KSL Truth Test found following the debate featuring U.S. Rep. John Curtis, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, businessman Jason Walton and former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson.

1. Election claims

Staggs made this claim about fraud during the 2020 election: “We saw so many evidences of fraud in this last election.”

KSL spoke with Utah Elections Director Ryan Cowley earlier this week about the notion of extensive voter fraud.

“We’ve never seen fraud significant enough in Utah to sway the results of an election,” Cowley said.

Beyond the state’s borders, there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 general election, said Josh McCrain, an assistant political science professor at the University of Utah.

“These are things that we really, really need to push back upon because there’s very little to zero empirical evidence that there’s anything like voter fraud in U.S. elections,” McCrain said.

2. A record on taxes

Brad Wilson had this to say about tax cuts in Utah: “As speaker of the House, I ushered in the largest tax cuts in the history of this state.”

KSL got in touch with Rusty Cannon, the president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. He told us the claim checks out. Wilson and other lawmakers celebrated last year as Gov. Spencer Cox signed $400 million dollar tax cut praised as “historic.”

3. Immigration and crisis at the border

Both Wilson and Staggs talked about the number of migrants arriving in the U.S. during president Joe Biden’s administration.

“We’ve had 10 to 12 million people invade this country during the Biden Administration,” Staggs said.

For his part, Wilson said, “We’ve had tens plus million of illegal immigrants flood into this country creating a humanitarian crisis and a security crisis that we are all aware of.” To find specific numbers, the KSL Investigators turned to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Data on the agency’s website indicates it’s had about 9.9 million “encounters” with migrants from October 2020 through April 2024. The number includes people who were apprehended, along with those sent away without being held in the U.S.

4. An allegation of wrongdoing

In the final minute of the debate, Staggs appeared to imply wrongdoing by Curtis, saying, “on March 4th of 2020, Abbott Laboratories was awarded a federal grant. On that same day, John Curtis purchased stock in that company. This is the problem in Congress. At a time when somebody should be looking out for their constituents, they end up looking out for their own profit.”

Curtis shot back: “You’ve accused me of a felony here tonight. You better have very good evidence, and I’d like to challenge you to produce that evidence.” After the debate, Staggs said he made a “factual statement” about Curtis and was not accusing the congressman of a felony. Asked if he was accusing the congressman of insider trading, Staggs told KSL.com: “Look, what I’ve said is, on the same day the company was given a grant, he traded stock.”

Curtis noted he listed the investment on a House disclosure form but has since divested, KSL.com reported. “That was a cheap shot,” Curtis said of Staggs’ comments following the debate. “I think the thing that’s unfortunate about it is, Mr. Staggs, his whole campaign is about the dirtiness of Washington and how he’s going to go fix that. And I think he really showed his hand. … Let’s be straight up. If you feel that way let’s say it, but don’t do what you did.”

The KSL Investigators have reached out to all four candidates’ campaigns with additional questions as we continue to fact-check claims made during the debate.


Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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KSL Truth Test: Fact-checking claims from Utah GOP candidates fighting to replace Romney